The Feed-in Tariff Scheme
Even though free solar has been available in the UK since 2010 there are still many who do not know why it's free or how to apply. There is even confusion as to who actually qualifies, the common misconception being that you have to be in receipt of some type of social payments in order to qualify. Let's first clear up what these free solar panels are actually all about.
Why free solar?
In 2010 the UK government launched a scheme called the feed-in tariff, this is more commonly referred to as FIT's. This scheme pays a tariff to anyone who is generating electricity from renewable technology such as wind or solar. You are paid for every kilowatt of electricity your system produces over a 25 year period. So anyone who invested in one of the supported green technologies would be rewarded with this payment.
Initially when the FIT scheme started private companies realised that they could provide the investment for the solar systems in return for the tariff payments. Companies started offering free solar photovoltaic systems to homeowners in return for being allowed to claim the tariff payments for themselves. This offered a win-win situation for the private companies and homeowners who did not want to or more commonly could not afford to invest in solar.
So who qualifies?
Wouldn't it be great if everyone could generate their own electricity? Unfortunately solar panels only work well if sited correctly. The panels have to be facing south and installed on your roof. This means that you have to own your home or be able to get the permission of the owner. Your home also needs to have a roof that faces south, it doesn't have to be a perfectly south facing aspect as solar can work economically to about 55 degrees off south.
How do you qualify?
The first step is to apply, this can be done on your chosen suppliers website where they will also specify and other specific requirements. Ideally you will need to have a largish sized roof as different installers require a certain amount of uninterrupted and clear roof space in order to fit their panels. Generally however the larger the better. The application on the installers site will require your contact details and for you to locate your home on Google maps, this is so that they can tell if your home is suitable.
What's in it for me?
Solar PV generates free solar electricity in daylight, this means that whilst it is light outside power will be generated for you to use in your home. The amount of free electricity will depend on the time of day and time of year. During the long summer days more solar power will be generated than in the shorter winter months. Recent research suggests that a typical household will cut their electricity bills by 37% which isn't too bad for no up front investment.
What if I want to buy my own system?
If you have the money to invest it makes much more sense to buy the system yourself and claim the FIT money and get the free solar panels. A system can cost as much as £10,000 - £12,000 for a larger 4kWp installation, however the financial returns are around 6% to as much as 11%. Of course not everyone has that much spare money to invest so at least having the free option allows those who want to go green and save some money to be able to do so.